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Just Have Fun With It

10 Sep

have_funI’m an editor at a newspaper. When I began my career at a small publication outside Atlanta, I had one of the perkiest bosses known to man. This was strange for two reasons: 1) I don’t really like perky people and 2) perky people aren’t usually found in newsrooms. We’re a grumpy, cynical bunch.

Whenever I’d come across a story that just didn’t make sense or a headline that was giving me trouble, she’d say, “Just have fun with it.” At first, this annoyed the hell out of me. I’m in my early 20s working late hours at a cruddy newspaper writing headlines for sometimes shoddy work, and she wants me to have fun with it. The hell?!

One day, I decided to let go of my grumpy, cynical armor and “just have fun with it.” I started writing better headlines. I started making sense of non-sensical copy. I even started to warm up to her. She’s really a nice person, and we’re Facebook friends to this day.

I took that mantra of “just have fun with it” with me when I began my weight-loss journey. In the beginning, it was absurdly difficult. I’m the woman who had at least three tubs of ice cream in the freezer at all times, complete with fudge sauce just in case. I kept boxes of brownie and cake mix in the cabinets because you never know when you need to bake a cake. I would come home after my late shifts and wind down like most people: fix a plate, watch some television, cuddle with my dog and go to sleep, only to start the cycle all over again.

Taking an active role in my health not only shook up my routine, it wasn’t a lot of fun. Burgers are more fun than kale. Television marathons are more fun than actual marathons. But the “fun” things weren’t doing me any good. I had to find the fun in order to continue on my weight-loss journey and achieve my goals.

My first step was playlists. Nothing keeps the body moving like a good playlist. Everyone has their preference. Mine goes somewhere between Beyonce and trap music. Either way, I need a good beat from a familiar song to keep me moving. And if I’m humming along to some Mike Will Made It beat, then I won’t be so focused on the sweat dripping in my eyes.

The next thing I did was make sure to try new things. It’s so easy to fall into a rut (see above with the burgers and TV). The gym, while beneficial, can seem like a scene from “Office Space,” with the fluorescent lights, horrible music and monotone instructors. I try to keep my gym visits to once or twice a week. In between, I’m running, at spin class (much different from being on the machines in the gym), swimming, yoga, etc. I avoid doing the same workout two days in a row so I don’t become too used to a routine and to shock my body with another workout.

Another way to keep the fun quotient high is to have a buddy. I have my workout nanny. You could have a friend who looks up to your good works. Or a relative who, well meaningingly, makes snide comments about your appearance and you want to shut them up. Or you and your significant other share a passion for CrossFit. Whatever it is, it’s best to have someone in your corner. There’s a reason there are people on the sidelines at races cheering people on. Because when you’re on a never-ending hill, it’s nice to look up and see someone telling you to keep going.

There’s fun to be had on this journey, especially when you reach your goal. Take it serious enough to understand how your body reacts to different workouts and diets, but not so seriously that you can’t find the joy in it. Just have fun with it.

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Swimming Safely

24 Jun
The original handwritten caption to this photo: "Negroes at Fairground Swimming Pool."

The original handwritten caption to this photo: “Negroes at Fairground Swimming Pool.”

I grew up in North St. Louis County, Mo., specifically Jennings. Midway through high school, my district decided to (finally) open the pool that had been sitting dormant since the ’80s. We were ridiculously excited. The pool had closed because of lack of funding in the district. Don’t ask me where the sudden burst of cash came from. Jennings is still a pretty low rung on the ladder when it comes to getting money from state.

Jump back about 30-35 years, and you’ll still be in Missouri, but a few miles south in St. Louis City, where my parents grew up. Fun fact: my parents went to the same high school, are both one of at least six siblings (who all went to the same high school) and had never met each other until my father returned from the Vietnam War. Across the street from their high school is Fairground Park, which had a municipal pool.

Fairground Park’s swimming pool has a storied history. The pool was built on the grounds of the World’s Fair amphitheater. It was a ginormous pool, hosting up to 12,000 swimmers a day. It was the largest municipal pool in the country at one time. And it was only open to white people. In 1949, the year my father was born, the pool finally opened to black residents. That didn’t go over well and eventually lead to a riot.

Flash forward to present day and me still trying to get my sea legs back. I’ve thought a lot about this in the past week as I’ve watched a world grapple with the racism that is so inherant that there was actual debate about taking down a treasonous, racist emblem casting a shadow over a town recovering from tradgedy.

The pool I swim in each week has people from all walks of life. As with all workout routines, sweat cares nothing about your bank account. We are all large, small, tall, short, 1%, the rest us. There was a time in many Americans’ recent memory that the color of our skin would have kept us from enjoying our morning routines together. The hate that once would have kept us separated is the same hate that took nine lives a week ago today.

Charleston is Baltimore is New York is St. Louis. It is every city, every hamlet, every unincorporated part of the country. It is a cold bucket of water to the face that race relations may have improved, but haven’t done a complete 180. Symbols of hatred and oppression and tyranny can be washed away, burned or even shot into outer space. We can do our best to scrub the taint of these symbols away. But it’s not enough to push them aside and act like it never happened, especially to the people who can recall the events so vividly.

An honest, no-holds-barred conversation needs to happen between all races for there to be at least a modicum of understanding. Until then, we’ll continue to front like stowing away the symbols of hate in a broom closet will solve all of our problems.

 

Getting My Sea Legs Back

17 Jun
It's still difficult, but I've got to 'just keep swimming.'

It’s still difficult, but I’ve got to ‘just keep swimming.’ Courtesy of Tumblr

I never really learned how to swim. Like, I never had real swimming lessons. During summer camp as a kid, we would go “swimming” every day. Really, it was just a bunch of kids splashing around in the pool. Some of our counselors would try to help us learn, but for the most part they were just teens flirting with one another while a bunch of kids created pool geysers with their cannonballs.

So, I’d get in the water and try to float, and not drown. I’d try to kick while floating, and not drown. I’d sit on the kickboard in the water and practice treading, and not drown. Until one day I jumped in the water not realizing what depth I was jumping into. And I nearly drowned.

Obviously I didn’t, but some instinct kicked in that day and I was able to keep kicking myself to the top, splashing like a maniac, but still keeping myself afloat. That was the day I tried to swim…actually swim.

And it worked out. Slow and steady wins the race and I was able to bob like a bouey without taking in any water. I learned how to swim under water. I learned how to float on my back and eventually swim backward (my favorite way to go). And then I learned to frog stroke followed by freestyle. Well into my 20s, I was swimming every summer. I strengthened those muscles. And I loved the water.

Flash forward almost 15 years and I’ve lost me sea legs. I’m equating it to riding a bike. Because if you haven’t ridden a bike in some years, you’re more than likely gonna fall over the first few tries.

That’s essentially what has happened to me as I’ve tried to reacclimate myself to the pool. It all began about a month ago when a friend from work invited me to go swimming at the local pool. I’d wanted to try it for a while, so it was nice to get the motivation.

Nervous isn’t a strong enough word to describe my feeling walking toward the pool. It’s an Olympic-size pool with several lanes. You have to share the lanes with others, meaning half a dozen people at any time could be trying to pass you up. It’s a bit daunting to try something you haven’t tried in years in front of a few dozen people with the thought you could drown.*

But fear won’t stop me from getting in a good workout, so into the water I went…with my kickboard. For the past five weeks, I have made great use of that 18-inch piece of foam. I’m strengthening my hips and thighs (great for running) and burning calories in the process. Get like me!

Eventually I’ll move on to arm strokes. I tried it a couple weeks ago, to very little success. You don’t realize how much energy you exert using all of your limbs to propel yourself through a body of water until you get a few feet and get out of breath. But I’m learning, and that’s the point.

I will own the pool one day. Until then, hand me my kickboard.

* I know I won’t drown, for two reasons: a) there are three lifeguards at the pool and b) it’s only four feet deep. But I have a real fear of not being able to breathe, so drowning is really not how I want to go.

National Running Day

3 Jun

imageOne of the things I love most about running is that it is a vast community of people from all walks of life who just like to pound the pavement. We love to lace up our sneakers at any given time of day and get outside for some fresh air.

That’s what I did today to celebrate National Running Day. Since 2009, it has been celebrated across the country on the first Wednesday in June. From pros to novices, thousands of people will create a blur across their neighborhoods as they enjoy what this activity means to them.

I encourage everyone, if able, to give running a try. You know your body better than anyone. So, start slow with a walk if it’s best for you. That’s how I began. It started with a three-mile walk that turned into an every-other-lap jog and eventually a full-out run. Once I could only do about 5 miles an hour. Now I’m topping 6 mph. Once I was scared to run with a crowd of people. Well…that fear hasn’t completely subsided. However, I don’t let that keep me from accomplishing my goal.

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This morning, I coerced my workout nanny to join me in the park for a run. We did three miles and got breakfast. The run was sponsored by the New York Road Runners association, which strives to be the ‘Go’ that gets people running for life.We did a couple of laps around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. It’s a good dirt path where you don’t feel like you’re being rushed around. People are there to take in the views, get some fresh air and burn a few calories. This morning’s breakfast run was one of many activities planned throughout the city to keep newbies and old-heads motivated.

What are your plans for National Running Day?

Hulu Is My Personal Trainer

31 Mar
My favorite show: cardio kickboxing.

My favorite show: cardio kickboxing. Courtesy of Hulu

My weight-loss journey has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned how to challenge myself to do new things. I’ve learned that raw kale tastes like the boulevard of broken dreams. And I’ve learned I’m an outdoor person.

I had never really seen myself that way. I have pretty tricky allergies that make it feel as though my throat is closing up on me. But since I began running, I’ve found out that I can barely tolerate the treadmill and would much rather be on the trail. Having the breeze in my face to cool me while I’m packing on the miles and watching the city go by is an ideal Saturday morning for me. It’s been almost three months since I was able to do that.

This has been the coldest winter ever, forget what Sister Souljah told ya. I haven’t experienced temps above 60 degrees since September. And I hate the cold. I’m miserable. Calgon needs to take me away to a beach with a mojito and a cabana boy to adjust my umbrella. I’m holding out hope for a little warmth soon, but really I’m just tired of being cold.

Me, three weeks ago

Me, three weeks ago

Still, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And this girl’s gotta stay on her grind. Sure, a workout will warm me up for the time being, but I’ve still got to go outside and deal with the elements.

Or do I?

I’ve made a new winter friend. His name is Hulu and I pay him $7.99 a month to help me with my workouts.

I’m ridiculously cheap. I really don’t like pulling out my check card for any reason. Every time it happens, I feel a little piece of me is being deducted from my account. I’m two steps away from being a cord cutter. Still, I’ve been able to find value in my new workout partner.

Hulu often touts its current programs like “Scandal” and “Gotham.” It’s great if you want to catch up on your shows from the past week or even look at some old stuff (hey, “Mary Tyler Moore Show”). But the hidden gem is the workout programs it has available. You can get an hour’s worth of cardio kickboxing, Pilates, zumba, yoga, etc., right in your living room.

To me, it’s better than buying a workout DVD because if you don’t like the Hulu video, you’re not stuck with it. You can try a different instructor or workout. The downside, however, is that the videos aren’t updated very often, so you can get in kind of a rut if you haven’t found an instructor you like.

There are lots of cheap options out there besides Hulu, like CosmoBody or DailyBurn. But I prefer Hulu because the workout programs are in addition to the other programs I watch. Plus, at just under $8 a month, it works within my especially thrifty budget.

Still, there are those pinching pennies much harder than I am. For you guys, YouTube is a great option. You have to do a bit more digging to find what you’re looking for, but the options are greater. If you find a YouTube channel that works for you, good for you. And let me know which ones you like, because I’m always on the lookout for a new workout.